By Karen Brainard
The debate continues on the visuals of renewable energy sources versus private property rights.
Speakers representing a proposed solar farm at Warnock Drive and Ramona Street gave a presentation to the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) at its Sept. 1 meeting. This was the second presentation for the Sol Orchard project, and many planning group members voiced the same concerns they had at their July 7 meeting.
At the 110-acre site is a pig farm. The proposal is for just over 46 acres to be developed for a wholesale distributed generation solar project that would produce and sell energy to San Diego Gas & Electric. The energy generated would go into the Ramona grid, according to Steve Wragg, of RBF Consulting, who showed a detailed map of the proposed project. Property owner Mark Bousema would lease his land for 25 years.
A state mandate requires utility companies to receive one-third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. RCPG member Eb Hogervorst said at the July meeting that several solar companies had approached owners of farmland in Ramona for solar projects.
After confirming that Sol Orchard is based in Northern California, RCPG member Kevin Wallace received some applause from the audience when he said, “To me you’re putting blight in Ramona for 25 years, trying to sell the idea that the power’s going into Ramona. We have power in Ramona, so to me you’re trying to put blight out here and get away with it and sell it as snake oil.”
Resident Robin Maxson addressed the planning group, suggesting a forum be held to gather input from the community on how best to balance the goal of renewable energy with the realities of the business and aesthetic environments. Long-term planning needs to be done now, she said.
“It’s important to explore ideas on how to make this a win-win for Ramona, local business and the environment,” she said.
RCPG Chair Jim Piva agreed and said, “This is just the beginning of a wave.” He also noted he is a believer in property rights.
A major use permit is required for the proposed solar farm. The planning group agreed to send its comments in a letter to the county. Patrick Brown, who works on renewable projects as a planner with San Diego County’s Department of Planning and Land U se, said county staff will consider the input and will ask the planning group to take another look at the project at a later date.
In other business:
•During the discussion of the property at Warnock Drive and Ramona Street, the county’s proposed south bypass was mentioned, as it would cut through that land if it is built. Brown said it is on the county’s five-year capital improvement project list. DPLU said no funding is available.
•The state Route 67 and Highland Valley/Dye Road intersection was listed on the agenda; however, confusion resulted over the proper procedures to bring the item back for consideration due to previous decisions. The planners agreed to first check with legal counsel.
•Howard Blackson of PlaceMakers gave a presentation on the Ramona Village Design Group project to create design standards and form-based codes for Ramona’s town core. He invited the planning group to attend a workshop session with the design group from 4 to 8 p.m., Sept. 20, at the Century 21 building on Main Street.
•Cordiano Winery on Highland Valley Road near Bandy Canyon wants to hold special events and have accessory food preparation. RCPG’s Kristi Mansolf said the county wanted the planning group’s comments on parking capacity and hours. The planners were supportive of Gerardo Cordiano’s request to hold special events until 9:30 or 10 p.m. and his availability to accommodate 30 to 50 cars on site. Neighbors attended the meeting supporting Cordiano’s project.